Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Spirit Guides Peter to Accept Gentiles

Peter Teaches Cornelius

Acts 10

1At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, an officer in the Italian group
of the Roman army. 2Cornelius was a religious man. He and all the other people
who lived in his house worshiped the true God. He gave much of his money to
the poor and prayed to God often. 3One afternoon about three o’clock, Cornelius
clearly saw a vision. An angel of God came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4Cornelius stared at the angel. He became afraid and said, “What do you
want, Lord?”

The angel said, “God has heard your prayers. He has seen that you give to the
poor, and he remembers you. 5Send some men now to Joppa to bring back a man
named Simon who is also called Peter. 6He is staying with a man, also named
Simon, who is a tanner and has a house beside the sea.” 7When the angel who
spoke to Cornelius left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a soldier, a
religious man who worked for him. 8Cornelius explained everything to them and
sent them to Joppa.

9About noon the next day as they came near Joppa, Peter was going up to the
roof to pray. 10He was hungry and wanted to eat, but while the food was being
prepared, he had a vision. 11He saw heaven opened and something coming down
that looked like a big sheet being lowered to earth by its four corners. 12In it were
all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13Then a voice said to Peter, “Get up,
Peter; kill and eat.”

14But Peter said, “No, Lord! I have never eaten food that is unholy or

15But the voice said to him again, “God has made these things clean so don’t
call them ‘unholy’!” 16This happened three times, and at once the sheet was taken
back to heaven.

17While Peter was wondering what this vision meant, the men Cornelius sent
had found Simon’s house and were standing at the gate. 18They asked, “Is Simon
Peter staying here?”

19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him,
“Listen, three men are looking for you. 20Get up and go downstairs. Go with them
without doubting, because I have sent them to you.”

21So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for.
Why did you come here?”

22They said, “A holy angel spoke to Cornelius, an army officer and a good
man; he worships God. All the Jewish people respect him. The angel told
Cornelius to ask you to come to his house so that he can hear what you have to
say.” 23So Peter asked the men to come in and spend the night.

The next day Peter got ready and went with them, and some of the followers
from Joppa joined him. 24On the following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius
was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him.
26But Peter helped him up, saying, “Stand up. I too am only a human.” 27As he
talked with Cornelius, Peter went inside where he saw many people gathered.
28He said, “You people understand that it is against our Jewish law for Jewish
people to associate with or visit anyone who is not Jewish. But God has shown
me that I should not call any person ‘unholy’ or ‘unclean.’ 29That is why I did not
argue when I was asked to come here. Now, please tell me why you sent for me.”

30Cornelius said, “Four days ago, I was praying in my house at this same
time—three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, there was a man standing before
me wearing shining clothes. 31He said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and
has seen that you give to the poor and remembers you. 32So send some men to
Joppa and ask Simon Peter to come. Peter is staying in the house of a man, also
named Simon, who is a tanner and has a house beside the sea.’ 33So I sent for you
immediately, and it was very good of you to come. Now we are all here before
God to hear everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34Peter began to speak: “I really understand now that to God every person is
the same. 35In every country God accepts anyone who worships him and does
what is right. 36You know the message that God has sent to the people of Israel is
the Good News that peace has come through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lord of all
people! 37You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after
John preached to the people about baptism. 38You know about Jesus from
Nazareth, that God gave him the Holy Spirit and power. You know how Jesus
went everywhere doing good and healing those who were ruled by the devil,
because God was with him. 39We saw what Jesus did in Judea and in Jerusalem,
but the Jews in Jerusalem killed him by hanging him on a cross. 40Yet, on the
third day, God raised Jesus to life and caused him to be seen, 41not by all the
people, but only by the witnesses God had already chosen. And we are those
witnesses who ate and drank with him after he was raised from the dead. 42He
told us to preach to the people and to tell them that he is the one whom God
chose to be the judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets say it is true
that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.”

44While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit came down on all those
who were listening. 45The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed
that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been given even to those who were not Jews.
46These Jewish believers heard them speaking in different languages and
praising God. Then Peter said, 47“Can anyone keep these people from being
baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we did!” 48So
Peter ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked
Peter to stay with them for a few days.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version

I. God’s Preparation of Cornelius for the Gospel
(Acts 10:1-8)

A. Cornelius of Caesarea

Caesarea was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean between Joppa and
Tyre, about seventy miles northwest of Jerusalem. Herod the Great named the
city in honor of Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor. It had a large Greek-
speaking population. It was graced with splendid temples, palaces and a beautiful
harbor. This was the seat of the Roman government and became the capital of
Palestine after the overthrow of Jerusalem. It was considered one of the most
magnificent cities of the eastern world. After Judea became a Roman Province
following the destruction of Jerusalem, Caesarea was the chief city of Palestine.
It was often visited by Paul, and it was here he made his speech and defense
before Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa (note Acts 23-26). Paul was imprisoned
for two years here. This also was the home of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8).

Cornelius was an Italian and a centurion in the Roman army who lived at
Caesarea. We have little insight into the religious character of Cornelius, for we
are told he was a devout man and feared God, yet within him was a hunger for
truth. He had no doubt learned of religious piety from contact with the Jewish
people whom he was helping to keep in subjection to the Roman yoke. He would
stand as any pious Jew of that day, religious in practice but with no knowledge of
Jesus Christ. This is the account of God providing an open door and a call for
enlightenment to the gospel message from one who was the strictest of Jews,

B. Portrait of the Character of Cornelius

1. He Had a Reverence for God and Was God-fearing

His virtues did not come from a materialistic philosophy of self-centeredness
or of self-interest. His devotion to God was of such that it influenced his
household. A man’s religion that does not affect his family is very weak. This
Roman soldier was devout in a sense of being religious. There is a blending in
this man’s character of religious devotion and objective goodness, for he also
gave of his means to help others.

2. Cornelius Prayed to God

This was not just a sentimental matter of praying, it was an intelligent cry of a
personal soul to a personal God, and he sought after God in sincerity. Paganism
had not satisfied him. Judaism gave him a clearer vision of God and in this he
was devout, living up to the light he had received. Yet not willing to rest here, he
sought all God had for him. In longing and waiting for this completeness in
following God, he was receptive when God opened the door to him for truth.
There are many who like Pilate will ask, “What is truth?” But they will not
receive it as their eyes are blind because their hearts are not sincere in the search
for truth. Cornelius prayed sincerely for truth, and therefore God opened a door
through which he could enter to a more blessed life as he personally responded to

3. God’s Response to His Prayer

An angel appeared to Cornelius while he was praying and told him that God
was mindful of his prayer and of his sincerity in serving God, but the angel did
not preach the gospel to Cornelius. Since the first announcement of the advent of
Christ into the world, born as a babe in the manger, angels have not preached the
gospel. God communicates the gospel through men. It is our responsibility today.
God’s response to the prayer of Cornelius was to bestow upon Peter the distinct
privilege and honor of gathering in this first Gentile fruit. By a special divine
revelation, God prepared an audience for the gospel in the Gentile world.
Cornelius was prompt to obey fully the communication given him by the angel.
Calling two of his household servants and declaring to them what God had
revealed to him, he sent them to Joppa to extend to a great apostle an invitation to
come and preach to them. The preparation of the work of the gospel in the hearts
of men is the work of the Holy Spirit. The soil is prepared for the seed to
germinate and flourish. So the Lord prepared the heart of this Gentile, devout and
religious, but one who needed Christ. How many there are who are devout to
some religious philosophy, just and upright in their living, prayerful, liberal and
self-denying in their giving, well-reported among their neighbors and all people,
but who need to learn how they may be saved. All these other things are totally
inadequate to blotting out one single sin. It would seem that God selected this
account of Cornelius to lay the ax at the very root of all self-righteousness and of
all who regard good works and religious activity as the grounds of man’s
acceptance before God. Although these are all wonderful graces and gifts in
themselves and will be a part of every devout Christian, yet it is through Jesus
Christ and through Him alone that anyone will be accepted before God. We who
are Christians should be stirred to greater faithfulness, watchfulness, diligence
and love through the study of this lesson. Those who are merely religiously
devout and are depending on good works as a means of salvation need to come to
Christ, as did Cornelius, and accept Jesus Christ into their lives as personal
Saviour. Then respond in Christian activity and service to Christ in all
faithfulness because He is our Redeemer. God’s Word, which enlightens us with
the need, also tells us what it was that Cornelius needed and which we all need to
know as he did. Good men without Christ are not saved.

II. God’s Preparation of Peter for His Mission in
Caesarea (Acts 10:9-16)

A praying apostle was the instrument whom God would send forth and use to
communicate the gospel to the Gentile seeker. This was a momentous time in the
history of Christianity and a crisis which would be all-embracing to the Spirit of
the gospel of grace. God needed prepared men for such responsibilities. Here,
two praying men were used in the development of God’s plan. One was an
earnest seeker of truth; the other was a devout servant of Jesus Christ. Both
needed to be prepared by God to meet the crisis. We can certainly learn from this
that God blesses in the exercise of prayer. If we are going to meet the needs and
challenges of today’s distressed and distorted world, it is imperative that we first
have our time with God for spiritual enrichment in our own lives and for His
wisdom in meeting each situation in the power of the Holy Spirit. How important
it is for Christians to have a fixed time for prayer. There is little thought of this in
our fast-moving world. We say there isn’t time, when we really can ill-afford not
to take this time in prayer before God. It would be well for all of us to examine
our time and be concerned with time wasted each day on the trivial while we
neglect the study of the Word of God and time for prayer. It was when Peter took
his regular time for prayer that God gave him some very important directions as
well as corrections in his attitude toward that which he would be meeting in the
coming moments of time.

A. The Place

Joppa, from very early times, had been the port of Jerusalem. At one time it
was a prominent port of the Phoenician fleets (2 Chronicles 2:16). Jonah fled to
this port when God called him on a mission to the Gentile city of Nineveh. It was
here that he took a ship going in the opposite direction of Nineveh to avoid
fulfilling God’s mission for him. Peter, being a Jew, was not inclined to go to the
Gentiles and share the gospel of Christ with them. But, unlike Jonah, Peter
yielded to a heavenly message and experienced peace and blessing in his
obedience to God. It is interesting to note that Peter was staying with Simon, a
tanner, for tanners, as a class, were despised and considered as outcasts among
the Jews. This was because of their necessary contact with dead bodies. The fact
that Peter stayed in Simon’s home indicates the apostle was already beginning to
rise above some of the narrow Jewish prejudices.

B. The Time

Joppa, thirty miles from Caesarea, was connected by an excellent road. The
messengers from Caesarea probably traveled by horseback. Less than twenty-
four hours after their departure they came to Joppa, and in God’s perfect timing,
just when He revealed His purpose to Peter. The one among the apostles who
found it so difficult to wean himself from the old covenant had to begin the work
of God among the Gentiles.

C. Peter’s Response to the Vision

Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” Peter’s
expression was a jumble of self-will and reverence; faith mixed with unbelief.
When we consider this response we think of the old nature of Peter. Peter was
still Peter. We remember that many times he responded quickly to Christ: “Far
be it from You, Lord.”
(Matthew 16:22), “You shall never wash my feet!” (John
13:8), and “Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be
(Matthew 26:33) (KJV). These were some responses Peter had in his
earlier days. Now the old nature, though crucified, is long in dying and struggles
very hard. Peter had experienced the blessing of Christ, and the Holy Spirit had
come upon him, but Peter was still Peter and needed to know the discipline of
submission to the will of God. Luke could not have written this account in the
book of Acts unless Peter had not personally told him about it. This “Not so,
was Peter’s opposition to doing away with ceremonial law. God had to
teach him that this must go, for the gospel message brought equality to all men.
The Gentiles were to be as much a part of the privileges of Christianity as the
Hebrew people. Peter had been strict in the Levitical law concerning food, and
even hunger could not tempt him to eat. Three times the vision came to him.
While Peter was in doubt about the vision, and perhaps meditating on what it all
meant, the men from Caesarea arrived.

III. Peter Responds to His Call and Fulfills His
Mission (Acts 10:17-48)

A. Peter Called from Prayer and Meditation to Action (Acts

Had it not been for Peter’s time of prayer and his time with the Lord for
guidance and instruction, he would not have been ready to go when the call at the
gate came. He went with the men, “doubting nothing,” as instructed of the Lord.
After Peter’s interview with the men from Caesarea and their message to him
from Cornelius, he realized his call was by divine authority. He knew he was to
go to the house of a Gentile and there speak to him the Word of the Lord.

B. The Meeting of Cornelius and Peter (Acts 10:24-33)

Peter entertained Cornelius’ men overnight, and the next morning he started
for Caesarea with six of the Jewish brethren. Cornelius knew how long the
journey would take, and with military promptness he had gathered together an
audience of kinsmen and friends who were ready and waiting. Keeping in mind
the circumstances of all that had happened to both Cornelius and Peter, it must
have been with great emotion that these two men met. Cornelius, in typical
oriental custom, received Peter into his presence. Peter’s explanation of his
departure from Jewish custom in coming into the house of a Gentile showed that
he understood the vision and was obedient to it. Cornelius responded to Peter’s
words by reciting to him, and to those gathered, God’s special communication to
him and how God had told him to send for Peter who would give them the Word
of God.

God, through special revelation, removed the great barriers to the entrance of
the gospel to the heathen world: the prejudice of the Gentile mind against the Jew
and that of the Jew against Gentile. In God’s own prepared circumstances, all
was now ready. Cornelius with a willing audience said to Peter, “Now therefore,
we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

C. Peter’s Message to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-43)

Peter was introduced by Cornelius and praised for the fact that he had not
delayed in coming to them. Then Peter gave them the message of salvation
through the resurrected Christ: that in the name of Jesus Christ, all who believe in
Him receive remission of sins. Remission is to remove the guilt of sin. The
qualification necessary in the recipient of the blessing is to believe, and the
“whoever believes” includes all nations, languages and tribes of people

D. The Effects of Peter’s Preaching (Acts 10:44-48)

Peter preached the gospel. The results: the conversion of the Gentiles and the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who received the message. It is said that
the Holy Ghost “fell.” The outpouring of the Holy Ghost was from heaven. It was
God-sent. As a result of this great outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the people gave
expression of magnifying God and evidence that Gentiles, uncircumcised and
unbaptized, received the Holy Ghost just as did the Jews. Peter commanded them
to be baptized in the name of the Lord, and water baptism followed.

Title: Explorers Bible Study: Luke and Acts, Workbook

Author: Constance, N.E.

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